This is a printer-friendly version of an article from Zip06.com.06/15/2022 12:00 AM
Peyton Gaudreau had a storybook freshman season with the Branford girls’ tennis team by going undefeated while earning All-SCC honors as the club’s No. 1 singles player this spring. Along with her personal accolades, Peyton’s first year with the Hornets gave her an opportunity to embrace the team aspect of tennis as she continued to grow her own game.
Peyton’s father Christopher is the owner of the Racquet Koop, a tennis store in New Haven. She had a racquet in her hands at the age of four. Peyton’s mother Tiffany was a runner growing up. In her parents, Peyton always had a strong support system with two people who understood when she was struggling and always encouraged her to persevere.
“If I was having an off day or something wasn’t working, my dad understood that, because he was in that situation before. My mom was a big athlete in running. She understands what it’s like to be in a rut, too,” says Peyton. “It’s easy to talk to them about it. They gave me great advice and taught me how to not give up.”
At the age of eight, Peyton started playing in matches in the United States Tennis Association (USTA). She has competed on the USTA circuit ever since and is currently a member of the U-16 division. When she was 12, Peyton played in her first national tournament with USTA in Pennsylvania.
Back then, even at age eight, Peyton thought that every match would determine her future in tennis. It terrified her at times as Peyton did not want to fail. However, while going through those intimidating moments, Peyton’s passion for the sport really started to take off.
By the age of 10, Peyton realized that she wanted to go as far as she could as a tennis player. While other friends were trying various sports, Peyton was determined to be her best on the court. She started making tennis a part of her daily routine.
“I made tennis an everyday, regular thing. Just like waking up in the morning, it was normalcy. It wasn’t a special event. It wasn’t something I did once a week. I realized that others didn’t have that in their normal schedule, but it was in mine,” Peyton says. “That’s when I realized I wanted to continue in the sport. Once I realized that, I couldn’t imagine my life without this sport. I knew it would be there for a while.”
With her USTA background, Peyton entered the Branford girls’ tennis program with an idea that she would be playing at one of the top singles spots. Peyton wound up earning the No. 1 singles position and was ready for the challenge after having already competed in several high-level tournaments.
Once Peyton joined the Hornets, she found that there was a family atmosphere in the program. With every match that she won, Peyton’s teammates were always there to support her. Peyton was no longer just competing for herself. As Branford’s No. 1 singles player, Peyton wanted to deliver for her squad.
“When I do these USTA tournaments, you’re there for yourself. In high school, I realized that when I win a match, there’s people counting on me. It made me feel special,” says Peyton. “After I win a match, people come over and congratulate me. They’re excited for me. It really brought our team together. Whether a win or a loss, we could all relate to it. You don’t get that team aspect with USTA.”
When Branford hosted Jonathan Law on May 13, Peyton was the first player to take the court. She was also the last player to step off the court as her three-set match took more than three hours to complete. Peyton came out victorious by a 6-7, 6-1, 6-3 score in the contest.
Being a home match, Peyton’s parents, their friends, and her neighbors were all in the stands to watch her win. Once her teammates saw Peyton claim the victory, they reacted in a way that she believed only happened on the big screen.
“After I won the match, my entire team got up and started cheering. They ran on the court, picked me up, and started hugging me and lifting me up,” Peyton says. “That was something I thought only happened in movies. That day, it happened in reality. It felt really nice. It made me feel appreciated on this team. It felt like it’s where I belonged.”
Peyton helped the Hornets post an overall record of 15-4 while advancing to the Class M state quarterfinals this spring. After that, she competed in the Individual Invitational Tournament, winning two matches to make it to the quarterfinal round. Peyton then withdrew from the tournament as a result of an injury.
In the end, Peyton won all 21 of her matches as Branford’s No. 1 singles player and was named to the All-SCC Tier 2/3 Team. When she found out that she had made All-Conference, Peyton understood the prestige that came with that accolade. As she looks forward to the All-SCC banquet, Peyton is excited about being recognized alongside a group of people who share her passion for tennis.
“I was so happy to make All-SCC. I realized how big it was,” says Peyton, who also made All-State. “It’s nice to be surrounded by people who have the same accomplishments as you and the same lifestyle as you.”
It took just one season for Peyton to make a name for herself with the Branford girls’ tennis program. Peyton feels proud to play for the Hornets in a sport that she loves. Tennis means everything to Peyton and has helped shape her into both the person and the athlete that she is today.
“When I say that I’m a tennis player, it reminds me of everything I’ve accomplished and reminds me of what it takes to get to where I am. It makes me feel proud of myself,” Peyton says. “When others hear me say I play tennis, they think it’s just a normal thing. But when I say it and when I show it on the tennis team, it’s much more than that. It’s a lifestyle.”